Tag Archives: Darren Till

UFC Vegas 36: Brunson vs Till – Main card predictions

The UFC middleweight division is back in the spotlight in the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday night, on a card that was supposed to take place in London initially.

The main event will see Derek Brunson take on the UK’s own Darren Till with the winner making a case to become the next fighter to challenge for a title shot after Robert Whittaker’s upcoming rematch with Israel Adesanya.

In the co-main event is the UK’s best chance at heavyweight gold as Tom Aspinall takes on short-notice opponent Sergei Spivac, while Paddy Pimblett makes his UFC debut in the main card opener when he takes on Luigi Vendramini.

Last week at UFC Vegas 35, we went 7/12 with three perfect picks on the night to move up to 396/624 (63.46%) with 174 perfect picks (43.94%). We’ll try to improve on that here and after starting with the prelims here, we now move on to the main card.


Paddy Pimblett (16-3) vs Luigi Vendramini (9-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

Finally the debut of Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett as he takes on ‘Italian Stallion’ Luigi Vendramini in the lightweight division. Pimblett has won his last two in a row in Cage Warriors, securing first-round stoppages both times. Vendramini returned from two years away to beat Jessin Ayari before losing his next fight to Fares Ziam at UFC 263.

Pimblett is a fantastic grappler, with seven submission wins in his career including a stunning flying triangle back in 2018. He’s cleaned up his striking throughout his career as he’s grown up but he’s still primarily a ground fighter. Vendramini is very well-rounded with excellent solid striking on the feet and some really good wrestling too.

If Vendramini chooses to keep this fight standing and just strike, he has a very real chance of victory. But if there are any sort of ground exchanges then Pimblett has the edge and Vendramini will be in danger. Because of Vendramini’s natural instinct being to wrestle too, I think Pimblett may be able to wrap up his neck and steal the show with a fun submission.
PICK – Paddy Pimblett via Submission, Round 2

Modestas Bukauskas (11-4) vs Khalil Rountree Jr (9-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

A very interesting fight at 205lbs as Bukauskas takes on Rountree Jr. Bukauskas won his debut via elbows against the cage before getting stopped by Jimmy Crute and then losing a split decision to Michal Oleksiejczuk at UFC 260, while Rountree Jr has also lost his last two including the most recent to Marcin Prachnio at UFC 257.

Bukauskas is a solid kickboxer with good top control when asked to grapple too, while Rountree has shown a new Muay Thai side to his game but has failed to live up to the performance he debuted it with back in 2018. Bukauskas hits really hard and is good fighting backwards, but Rountree likes to dictate from the centre and throw good leg kicks followed by clinches and a crisp right cross.

His issue is that he never really commits to winning a fight. Rountree seems to be content going to the judges by sticking to his plan, while Bukauskas is someone who is always looking for a finish and willing to take a shot to give two back. Overall, the Lithuanian should be able to take whatever is coming back at him by applying plenty of pressure and landing heavy shots of his own for a big win.
PICK – Modestas Bukauskas via Knockout, Round 1

Alex Morono (19-7) vs David Zawada (17-6) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Another very interesting fight but this time in the welterweight division. Alex Morono is coming in off the back of his stunning knockout win over ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone at UFC Vegas 26, while Zawada has lost three of his last four including a split decision last time out against Ramazan Emeev at UFC Fight Island 7.

Morono is a brawler with great volume and some decent power in his hands with good technique, while Zawada has got plenty of power in his hands and he looks to come forward and engage in a war at all times. Zawada has 11 KO’s throughout his career but it’s his forward pressure that really sets him apart from others.

With that said though, Morono is the better fighter of the two. He’s shown that short notice doesn’t really matter to him in the past and while he’s got great volume and power himself, I think his defensive abilities will see him earn another win.
PICK – Alex Morono via Decision

Tom Aspinall (10-2) vs Sergey Spivak (13-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

A banger of a heavyweight co-main event as Aspinall takes on short-notice opponent Sergey Spivak. Aspinall is undefeated in the UFC with two first round KO’s followed up by a second round submission win over former champion Andrei Arlovski at UFC Vegas 19. Spivak steps in on short notice on a three-fight win streak, with his most recent being a decision win over Aleksei Oleinik at UFC Vegas 29.

Aspinall is a brilliant boxer who used to train with Tyson Fury, but he’s also a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu too as shown in his most recent win. Spivak is a good wrestler with decent jiu-jitsu and some okay boxing on the outside too. Aspinall is by far the more powerful of the two, with a sharp jab and a violent right hand. Spivak is no slouch himself though and on paper this is a really good match up.

If Spivak can get top position then Aspinall could struggle to get any offence going but Aspinall is capable of preventing any takedown and picking him apart on the feet. Realistically this is what I expect from this one, with Aspinall using his jabs and leg kicks to open up some power strikes later in the fight for a big win.
PICK – Tom Aspinall via Knockout, Round 2

Derek Brunson (22-7) vs Darren Till (18-3-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

A banger at middleweight in a fight where title contention becomes a reality for the winner. Derek Brunson is on a tear right now with a four-fight win streak including a fantastic main event win over Kevin Holland at UFC Vegas 22 while Till has lost three of his last four with a defeat to Robert Whittaker at UFC Fight Island 3 last time out.

Brunson is a wrestler first with takedowns the biggest part of his game, as he looks for top control after landing his left hand. Till on the other hand is a pure striker with brilliant strikes and kicks and tremendous power in his own left hand too. Brunson will almost certainly look to close distance and take Till down, but when he rushes forward he often leaves his chin up and Till doesn’t let those opportunities slide by often.

Till has got genuine one-punch knockout power, great hand speed and he goes into every fight knowing the opponent will want to take him down so his defence isn’t poor. It’s a case of how successful Brunson can be with his takedowns but I think Till will be able to land big shots to earn a knockout win for the first time since Donald Cerrone in 2017.
PICK – Darren Till via Knockout, Round 3

Kelvin Gastelum replaces Paulo Costa to face Jared Cannonier, Till/Brunson date changed

The UFC middleweight double header for August is no more after a withdrawal and a date change were announced.

It was revealed last month that the UFC had paired up 185lbs contenders Derek Brunson and Darren Till for August 14th for a potential London card, while Paulo Costa and Jared Cannonier were set to meet the following week at a location to be announced.

However it has now been announced that neither of those fights will go ahead as planned.

With the global COVID-19 pandemic still in affect, it turns out it will be unlikely that the UFC can put together a card in London on August 14th this year.

Instead, the organisation is now targeting a card for September 4th in London, which has seen the Brunson vs Till fight moved to accommodate its main event status.

Currently UFC 266 is scheduled to take place on September 4th, with light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz set to defend his title against Glover Teixeira. According to ESPN though that pay-per-view card will be moved to later in the month in order to accommodate the London card, although neither are official yet.

It was also confirmed that Paulo Costa will no longer fight Jared Cannonier on August 21st, after the Brazilian withdrew from the bout.

Kelvin Gastelum will step in to replace him, making it two fights in a row that Gastelum has stepped in to replace Costa after he pulled out with plenty of notice.

Costa hasn’t fought since his UFC 253 knockout defeat to Israel Adesanya, but was scheduled to fight Robert Whittaker back in April. Costa withdrew from that fight citing ‘flu-like symptoms’, saying he had lingering effects from COVID-19. Gastelum stepped in to replace him in that one, but was dominated by Whittaker in a five-round decision defeat.

This time there is no injury, but instead Costa says he never signed a contract to fight Cannonier and isn’t happy with the pay that fighters receive and thus won’t be fighting.

Cannonier’s last fight was also against Whittaker, with ‘The Reaper’ dominating him at UFC 254 to a three-round decision win to claim himself dibs in the title conversation. Whittaker will fight the winner of Adesanya and Vettori 2, who meet at UFC 263 this weekend.

Whittaker actually turned that fight down following his win over Gasteulm, with scheduling conflicts making it too hard to turn around and get a proper camp in for the desired date.

Cannonier is currently ranked at number four in the division, while Gastelum is ranked at number nine. A win for either man puts them into contention for a title shot in the near future, while a loss could plummet them further away from a shot than ever before.

Till and Brunson’s fight looks likely to be the next man to get a shot after Whittaker, with Adesanya previously name-checking Till as a future opponent while Brunson has previously been beaten by the champion but is currently riding a four-fight win streak after beating Kevin Holland in March.

UFC announces two middleweight main events for this summer

The UFC have announced two blockbuster middleweight main events for this summer as they begin to plan the third quarter of 2021.

With the division on the move next month when Israel Adesanya defends his title against Marvin Vettori at UFC 263, the company are looking towards the next contenders by pairing up four of the top six ranked fighters together.

It was revealed recently that the UFC are potentially looking at making a return to London in August, and it seems like that could be headlined by the returning Darren Till as he will fight Derek Brunson on August 14th pending medical clearance.

Till was supposed to face off against Vettori himself last month to determine the number one contender for Adesanya’s title, but the Briton broke his collarbone in training a little over a week out from the fight and was forced to withdraw.

Vettori went on to beat Kevin Holland in a short-notice fight and earn himself a title shot off the performance. Brunson however continued his fine run of wins by beating Holland himself just two weeks prior to ‘Trailblazer’ getting beaten by the Italian.

Brunson made it four wins in a row, after losing to Adesanya back in 2018 by beating Elias Theodorou and Ian Heinisch before a main event win against highly rated prospect Edmen Shahbazyan got him back in the conversation among contenders.

The following week on August 21st, the UFC will welcome back Paulo Costa to the octagon when he takes on hard hitting Jared Cannonier in the main event.

Costa hasn’t fought since being knocked out in the second round of his title fight with Adesanya at UFC 253 in October, after withdrawing from a scheduled bout with Robert Whittaker in April with flu-like symptoms attributed to COVID-19.

Cannonier himself hasn’t been in the cage since UFC 254 when he fought Whittaker, being nullified to a complete halt as he saw his three-fight winning streak come to an end in the co-main event.

It will no doubt be an absolute banger of a fight, with both men having genuine one-punch knockout power to rely on while Costa is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt too.

With Whittaker guaranteed the next title shot after Adesanya vs Vettori 2, these fights will go a long way to establishing the contender after that. The most impressive winner is likely to get the nod early next year, in a division that is shaping up beautifully with new contenders constantly emerging to fight the top dogs that are already established.

There is always the wildcard option of Kamaru Usman moving up to middleweight should Vettori or Whittaker be able to dethrone Adesanya, with the current welterweight champion admitting that a move up a weight-class could become an option should his fellow African no longer be the man holding the belt.

Darren Till vs Marvin Vettori cancelled at UFC Vegas 23

UFC Vegas 23 has lost its main event as Darren Till vs Marvin Vettori has been cancelled just 11 days before fight night.

Till and Vettori were scheduled to meet in the middleweight division, with the winner expected to be in line for a future title shot as the division’s top rankings take shape following Israel Adesanya’s failed attempt to become a two-weight world champion at UFC 259.

That plan is now on the back-burner as England’s Till has been forced to withdraw from the bout, according to Vettori himself and ESPN’s Ariel Helwani who broke the news.

According to Helwani, Till was forced to withdraw from the bout after suffering an injury in training. The Brit released a statement on Instagram revealing he had broken his collarbone. Unfortunately this is not the first time he has withdrawn from a bout in recent times.

After losing his summer showdown on Fight Island to Robert Whittaker, Till was forced to undergo knee surgery after suffering a torn ACL during the fight. He accepted to fight Jack Hermansson later in the year, but after failing to recover from the injury in time he withdrew from the bout and it was Vettori who stepped in to the main event slot after original replacement Kevin Holland was forced to withdraw due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Vettori would go on to dominate Hermansson to a five-round unanimous decision win and move into the top five to set up this fight with Till.

As it goes in the world of MMA, Ariel Helwani is reporting that Kevin Holland has accepted an offer to step in on short notice once more and is just waiting on the bout being signed off by all relevant parties.

Holland main evented UFC Vegas 22 against Derek Brunson on March 20th and was well beaten in a five-round decision where he failed to take advantage of the position he put himself in following a 5-0 run in 2020. A quick turnaround in another main event could potentially put him right back in the hunt for a higher ranking, although Dana White’s criticism of him after that bout could make the road a longer one than usual.

Vettori commented on the withdrawal of Till via Twitter, calling the Liverpool fighter out for pulling out of the fight. Holland was quick to respond on Twitter also, before the Italian seemingly agreed to the bout online.

The middleweight clashes that were due to take bout have taken a big hit in recent weeks, with Kelvin Gastelum stepping in to replace Paulo Costa to fight ‘Bobby Knuckles’ Whittaker on April 17th also.

Middleweight clashes to headline UFC Vegas cards in April

The UFC middleweight division will be on the move in April, with two huge fights made to headline separate cards.

With Israel Adesanya set to challenge Jan Blachowicz on March 6th at UFC 259 for the light heavyweight championship, the 185lbs weight class is likely to be on hold for the first half of 2021.

Robert Whittaker defeated Darren Till and Jared Cannonier in the latter half of 2020 which many believed was enough to earn him a rematch with Adesanya, who took the title from him in a stunning knockout at UFC 243 in Australia.

However, with Adesanya’s decision to go up in weight Whittaker has made the decision not to wait around and instead stay active. So on April 17th, he will fight Paulo Costa in the main event of a UFC Vegas card according to ESPN.

Costa failed in his own title fight against Adesanya at UFC 253, being knocked out in style in the second round to lose his undefeated record in a grudge match.

He made excuses after the fight about injuries and illness and called for an immediate rematch, all of which were ignored. He will now look to get right back on the horse against Whittaker, who has lost just one fight since moving to middleweight and only to Adesanya since 2014.

A win for Whittaker will cement his spot as the number one contender for the belt whether it be against Adesanya or for the vacant strap, while a win for Costa will raise interest in a potential rematch for himself also.

UFC Fight Night: Whittaker v Till : News Photo

If Costa wins though, he is more likely to face the winner of another fight that has been made for April when Darren Till takes on Marvin Vettori the week before on April 10th.

Till was due to fight against Jack Hermansson in December, but injuries sustained in his previously mentioned defeat to Whittaker hadn’t quite healed yet and he was forced to withdraw. Vettori stepped in on short-notice in that bout and won via dominant decision to enter the top five conversation.

A win for either would likely set up a bout in a title eliminator situation, with Till 1-1 in the division since moving up from welterweight while Vettori has won his last four in a row with his last defeat coming in a split decision to Adesanya before he was champion.

The first quarter of 2021 continues to produce hugely important main event bouts and the middleweight division will finally be on the move once again after these two fights are completed.

2021 Will Be the Year of New Male Superstars For the UFC

After years of the same names at the top of the world in the mixed martial arts, 2021 is set to spark the start of a new era.

2020 will end with all the same champions as it started with except for three. Deiveson Figueiredo, Petr Yan and Jan Blachowicz are now the reigning champions of the flyweight, bantamweight and light heavyweight divisions but even they only got into that spot because Henry Cejudo and Jon Jones vacated the belts.

As the crazy chapter of this year ends though, the UFC has set itself up nicely for a huge year in 2021.

In every division in the men’s realm, there is at least one hot up and comer on their way up towards a title charge looking for a new spell of domination.

Brandon Moreno has the chance to enter the year as a champion by de-throning Figueiredo at UFC 256 on a three-week turnaround, while at bantamweight Aljamain Sterling has a chance to push his popularity through the roof with a win over Petr Yan.

135lbs may be the deepest division there is though with the likes of Marlon Vera, Nathaniel Wood, Sean O’Malley, Cory Sandhagen, Song Yadong, Casey Kenney and more making there way up the rankings. A run of wins for any of them would see them push into that top five and title contention which is only a positive.

UFC 252: O'Malley v Vera : News Photo

Featherweight is in a similar spot. Brian Ortega is set to be next up to challenge Alex Volkanovski but the competition after that fight is exciting too. Zabit Magomedsharipov, Yair Rodriguez, Calvin Kattar, Bryce Mitchell and Shane Burgos are all ranked and could all boost their title aspirations with some wins in 2021, which would almost certainly create a new star at the top of one of the most stacked divisions around.

Lightweight is likely to see the end of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s reign, whether or not he decides to go for 30-0. If he does and is successful, the next champ will be an instant superstar anyway. The most star-studded division the UFC has is also home to some top prospects. The likes of Islam Makhachev, Beneil Dariush, Diego Ferreira, Gregor Gillespie and Drew Dober could be put on a hot streak to gold with a string of victories.

Welterweight has superstars already but in terms of prospects they’re probably closer to title contention than other divisions. The likes of Geoff Neal, Leon Edwards, Khamzat Chimaev, Vicente Luque and Michael Chiesa are all likely to etch towards title contention with a win or two and all will be fairly new names to the casual fan looking at the top of the division.

UFC Fight Night: Smith v Rakic : News Photo

Middleweight has the likes of Marvin Vettori, Edmen Shahbazyan, Omari Akhmedov, Darren Till and even Paulo Costa all under the age of 30 already in the rankings and some big name wins for them will see them in the conversation to challenge Israel Adesanya for his belt.

Light heavyweight and heavyweight are likely the divisions with the least amount of prospects coming through currently who look ready for title contention. The likes of Aleksandar Rakic and Jiri Prochazka could potentially be in the picture before the end of the year with a win or two but beyond that you’re looking at guys who’d need a big step up. Nikita Krylov, Johnny Walker, Jimmy Crute and Misha Cirkunov could be in the upper echelons of the division with a good run.

With heavyweight severely lacking in prospects, Cyril Gane is likely the only one that will get anywhere near the top end of the rankings but the potential of Francis Ngannou holding the belt is something the UFC would love. His presence in Africa along with the fact that his style will have casual fans buzzing with the violence is the stuff superstars are made of.

It’s a chance for the UFC to put on some incredible fights that fans would love to see and build new, genuine superstars quickly and legitimately.

2021 is the start of a post-COVID era for the fight game and they need someone to take it by the scruff of the neck to march into the future.

UFC Fight Island: Whittaker vs Till – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Nathaniel Wood def John Castaneda via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

A solid start to the card for ‘The Prospect’ as he delivers on his name with a great performance. Lots of movement and stiff punches but Castaneda held his own in the first round with some strikes of his own. As the fight progressed though, Wood began to find his reads and land more often than not. More of the same through the second and third round and Wood cruises into a decision victory.

Ramazan Emeev def Nicklas Stolze via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)

Another fiercely contested bout between two warriors as Emeev gets himself back into the UFC win column also. The first round went as expected, with Emeev dominating on the ground with 3 takedowns and plenty of time in top position. The round ended though with Stolze landing a huge knee that rocked Emeev before the timer ended. The second round didn’t hit the mat at all as Emeev kept it standing and out-struck Stolze with his stiff jab and a nice overhand right. In the third, he controlled his opponent against the cage with a strong body lock and wore his opponent down to secure the unanimous victory.

PRELIMS

Pannie Kianzad def Bethe Correia via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)

An interesting fight this one as Kianzad came out firing and Correia almost looked lost in the Octagon. Barely any head movement made her a simple target to hit, which Kianzad did handily and just completely dominated the opening round. In the second round, Correia landed a takedown and did well early on but Kianzad got back to her feet and continued to outland her opponent in the third round for a comfortably decision win in the end. Correia didn’t look good here at all.

Tanner Boser def Raphael Pessoa via Knockout, Round 2 (2:36)

Tanner Boser makes it two wins on the spin with a big knockout over Pessoa in the second round. After a tentative first round from the heavyweights where there weren’t many punches thrown but plenty of leg kicks, Boser throws a windmill left hand that scrapes the eye of his opponent (legally!) and Pessoa goes down. Boser steams in and follows up with big ground and pound before the referee steps in and calls it off. Big win!

Movsar Evloev def Mike Grundy via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3, 29-28)

A high-level grappling bout which saw scrambles, submission attempts and good strikes. Evloev and Grundy took each other to the limits, with Grundy starting it off immediately looking to take it to the ground. Grundy went for a d’arce choke but Evloev used a backwards roll to escape, very unorthodoxly. Grundy continues to go for takedowns but Evloev is busy on the bottom and when he gets back to his feet clearly has the edge in the stand-up. Grundy took plenty of punishment and his face was marked up so he started shooting for takedowns, but Evloev was prepared now and was able to stuff them and land more shots. Round 3 was all Evloev on the feet too and even when Grundy managed to secure a takedown Evloev was able to get back up quickly.

Tom Aspinall def Jake Collier via Knockout (Round 1, 0:45)

Well, that was quick. As expected, Aspinall moves forward and causes plenty of problems. Collier is way out of his depth and as he steps in for a power shot, Aspinall lands a beautiful knee to the body before a one-two straight down the pipe to flatten Collier. He lands a few more shots on the ground before the referee steps in. No shocks there.

Jesse Ronson def Nicolas Dalby via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 1 (2:48)

The first shock of the night! A fun first round where Dalby tried to initiate a brawl with his less technical opponent and it backfired massively. After stuffing a takedown attempt against the cage, Ronson lands a huge left hand counter to the chin that drops Dalby. He goes for ground and pound, takes mount and sinks in a rear-naked choke for the big upset win and his first UFC victory.

Francisco Trinaldo def Jai Herbert via Knockout, Round 3 (1:30)

What a fight! First round Trinaldo got Herbert to the ground and used excellent top pressure to land sharp elbows but the Brit gets back to his feet and gets some big knees in of his own. Herbert opens the second round with a big one two that drops Trinaldo! He pushes forward for a finish but the veteran shows his experience and ties him up on the ground in his guard. More big shots from Herbert and he’s troubling Trinaldo, but the elder statesmen is staying in it with some body shots. Third round opens up with either fighter potentially up on the scorecards. Trinaldo swings a wild left hook that connects flush on the forehead of Herbert and knocks him out cold. He falls backwards and Trinaldo rushes over and doesn’t want to strike but Herb Dean won’t wave the fight off so Trinaldo lands 3 bombs before it’s over. Massive win for Trinaldo but a great showing from Herbert too.

MAIN CARD

Khamzat Chimaev def Rhys McKee via Knockout, Round 1 (3:08)

As expected, this one didn’t last long at all. Chimaev flew across the octagon and immediately shot for the takedown, picking McKee up and walking him across the cage to dump him in the corner. He got on top of him and landed strike after strike on the ground until the referee showed mercy. 2 fights, 2 strikes absorbed, 2 finishes in 2 different weight classes. This kid is the real deal.

Alex Oliveira def Peter Sobotta via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

A super sharp ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira delivered a masterclass of a performance as he defeated German Sobotta in this fight. Heavy body kicks made Sobotta’s mid-section tender and meant he dropped his hands low, allowing Oliveira to land straight right hands at will. Big uppercuts and body shots too but Sobotta isn’t giving it up. Pushing forward with shots and kicks, Oliveira is being dominant on the feet and piecing up Sobotta. Vicious elbows open up a cut on the top of the head, followed by cuts around the eye. Sobotta tries to push forward but can’t land anything significant enough to overturn this comfortable win.

Paul Craig def Gadzhimurad Antigulov via Submission (Triangle Choke), Round 1 (2:06)

Craig storms out across the octagon to start fast and lands a nice body shot. Antigulov goes straight for the single leg takedown and secures it, although Craig didn’t fight it particularly hard. With Craig on his back he looks to lock up a triangle choke but is being very patient with it, while Antigulov starts throwing bombs. 3 big elbows land on Craig and open up a cut over his head, but he sinks the triangle choke in deeper and takes an arm too forcing a quick tap by the Russian. Beautifully done and mightily impressive by the Scotsman.

Carla Esparza def Mariana Rodriguez via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)

A true war of attrition in this one as both ladies left it all in the octagon cage. Esparza opens up the round with a big takedown attempt and ends up on top, but Rodriguez attacks hard and fast from her back with slashing elbows. She opens up a huge cut on Esparza’s eye and it’s leaking onto her own face, as she’s still on the bottom of the grappling exchange. The second round is more of the same but with more damage from Rodriguez as she stuffs more takedowns and lands some nice right hands, ending the round with some ground and pound of her own when Esparza attempted a heel hook. In the third, Esparza got the fight down yet again and this time just was intent on keeping Rodriguez down and handing out some damage of her own rather than attempting submissions. The round ends and I have it scored 29-28 Esparza but could absolutely go either way.

Fabricio Werdum def Alexander Gustafsson via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (2:30)

Gustafsson comes out light on his feet likes he’s still a 205er and immediately Werdum goes for the takedown. Gustafsson fights against it and gets back to his feet but Werdum holds on to him from behind and secures the trip and back position. He works for the rear-naked choke but Gustafsson fights the hands so he transitions to an armbar. After a tussle for position, Werdum breaks the grip and extends the arm forcing Gustafsson to tap out. Crazy.

Mauricio Rua def Antonio Nogueira via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)

What. A. Fight. Another war between these two legendary Brazilians. Both fighters were rocked during the first round as they exchanged left hooks in the pocket. A flat out war ensued, much like the previous two bouts, and once again Rua was victorious. Rua landed some takedowns to get ground and pound in but Nogueira also did the same thing at one point too. Big shots exchanged and a wonderful fight that rolled back the years, but it’s the same outcome as the previous two occasions too.

Robert Whittaker def Darren Till via Unanimous Decision (48-47 x3)

A high-level striking bout here as both men come out strong and committed to taking the centre of the octagon. After a nice exchange of shots, Whittaker rushes in for an overhand left and Till lands a stunning elbow perfectly on the chin that drops the Reaper! He goes for the ground and pound but Whittaker is able to get back to his feet and recover before the end of the round. In the second, it’s a role reversal. Till comes out aggressive and it’s Whittaker who lands a huge shot that drops Till this time. He ends up on top in half guard and lands some vicious elbows on the ground to cause some damage. The rest of the fight is incredibly strategic and technical, with neither fighter landing anything more significant throughout but plenty of feints and strikes thrown. Whittaker started mixing it up more with takedown attempts leading to hooks. His attack of Till’s lead leg has caused the Brit some big problems in the latter stages of this fight and into the final round he needs to land a finish. He throws another big elbow that lands on the side of the head and cuts Whittaker open bad, but the former champion goes straight for a takedown to see the fight out safely. Big win for Robert Whittaker that leaves Darren Till in limbo in the middleweight division.

UFC Fight Island: Whittaker vs Till – Main Card Predictions

As the UFC brings to an end the first edition of Fight Island, the middleweight division is hotting up. Former champion Robert Whittaker makes his return in his first bout since losing the belt as he takes on former welterweight title contender Darren Till in the main event.

Before that though, a stacked FIFTEEN fight card will see plenty of big fights and talented fighters enter the octagon. I’ll break down the main card here, and offer up my predictions for each fight.

Last time out for UFC Fight Island: Figueiredo vs Benavidez 2, I correctly predicted 6/10 winners on the night with just one of those completely correct (winner, round, method). I expect to do much better this time around and hope to improve on that record.

You can see my predictions for the prelims of this card here.

Khamzat Chimaev (7-0) vs Rhys McKee (10-2-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

After a mesmerising debut just 10 days ago, Chimaev returns to the Octagon looking for his second win in his second weight division when he takes on Cage Warriors’ ‘Skeletor’. McKee is a solid striker with great jiu-jitsu and will definitely be able to put up more of a fight than John Phillips did. Chimaev though was so dominant against Phillips, a big middleweight, that it’s very hard to discount the size and strength difference. Chimaev has a rocket strapped to his back right now and another dominant win on Fight Island will only see his stock rise further.
PICK – Khamzat Chimaev via Submission, Round 1

Alex Oliveira (21-8-1, 2NC) vs Peter Sobotta (17-6-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Another potential fight of the night contender here, as ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira looks to make it back-to-back wins in 2020 against the returning Sobotta. The German hasn’t fought since 2018, when he was well beaten by Leon Edwards. Both fighters are technical strikers, with Oliveira loving a hard kick, but also both are more than comfortable on the ground. Sobotta is a better grappler than striker and will want the fight on the ground if he can be in control there and he could go for a submission. If Oliveira ends up in control, we’ll see big ground and pound strikes that could potentially set up submissions. Overall, Sobotta’s inactivity is likely going to cost him here and Oliveira should be able to sneak a win.
PICK – Alex Oliveira via Unanimous Decision

Paul Craig (12-4-1) vs Gadzhimurad Antigulov (20-6) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

Two wild submission artists who both struggle against fighters with real, genuine quality, this is a weird fight. Craig drew his last fight against Shogun, which many think he won, but before that he had exchanged between wins and losses since 2017. Antigulov had been a finishing machine until recently, where he now lost his last two by knockout. Antigulov has struggled to get through the first round previously and if he does this time he’ll start to fade. But his game plan is constantly to go for the takedown and Craig is so confident on his back that he likes to pull guard so he may not have his cardio tested in the end. This is really a ‘pick-em’ fight where nothing would surprise me, I’d avoid betting on this one.
PICK – Gadzhimurad Antigulov via Decision

Carla Esparza (16-6) vs Marina Rodriguez (12-0-2) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

A fun women’s fight coming up where both have a severe disadvantage in the others comfort zone. Despite being only 5ft 1, Esparza loves to try and impose her wrestling game on her opponents while Rodriguez is a muay-thai fighter who throws vicious knees and elbows in the clinch. In both of Rodriguez’s draws she was ragdolled on the ground in 10-8 rounds and while Esparza isn’t as physically imposing as Calvillo she is good on the ground. If Esparza can get the takedown, Rodriguez will find it hard to get back up and will likely lose that round. I’m going to back Esparza to get enough takedowns and control enough on the floor to secure a decision win.
PICK – Carla Esparza via Unanimous Decision

Fabricio Werdum (23-9-1) vs Alexander Gustafsson (18-6) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

Another weird fight on the card sees two all-time greats of the sport clash in the heavyweight division. Werdum has lost his last two, including being KO’d by Alexander Volkov while Gustafsson lost his last two by finish against Jon Jones and Anthony Smith. Werdum dominated on the ground against Oleinik in his last bout but was overwhelmed on the feet. If you’re going to get overwhelmed on the feet by Oleinik, then Gustafsson will probably murder you. If the fight hits the ground for whatever reason though, Werdum has a big advantage on the mat. Overall though, I think Gustafsson has too much of a striking advantage for Werdum and now that he’s at heavyweight he should have more power too.
PICK – Alexander Gustafsson via Knockout, Round 2

Mauricio Rua (26-11-1) vs Antonio Nogueira (23-9) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

A fight that should probably be happening in Brazil if it’s happening at all, but the trilogy bout has arrived between ‘Shogun’ and ‘Minotouro’. Rua won the previous two bouts via decision but now I’ll be shocked if this goes the distance. Rua is 38 and Nogueira is 44, both are likely to retire by the end of the year. This is a fight for the nostalgia and it should end up in the same result. Nogueira has pop at the end of his shots but is slow and laboured now, while Rua is 4-1-1 in his last 6 bouts. The gas tank is nearly empty for both and both have shown that their chins are not what quite what they used to be anymore in recent times. Noguiera hasn’t fought for over a year and at this age I expect that to make a massive difference. Rua will land clean and end this one early.
PICK – Mauricio Rua via Knockout, Round 1

Robert Whittaker (20-5) vs Darren Till (18-2-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

The main event is a fight that everyone has been looking forward to and rightly so. A high level striking bout is almost certain to take place here and with five rounds on the clock should be a very fun one. Whittaker’s last fight was when he was destroyed by Israel Adesanya in their title fight, while Till’s last bout was an underwhelming win over Kelvin Gastelum in his middleweight debut. Whittaker has a wide stance and focuses a lot on kicks to maintain his distance, while Till uses his kickboxing background to stay out and then his footwork to steam in and land his big left hand. Whittaker seems to be very underrated because of the way he lost to Adesanya and it’s interesting to see for me. The Australian has powerful striking and excellent defence, something we saw against Yoel Romero. Till’s chin was touched by Woodley and Masvidal and if Whittaker lands in a similar fashion then the results could be the same. Whittaker himself has been prone to a big punch too recently though, as he was dropped 4 times in his last two fights. Till will pressure from the off but Whittaker is proven at this level and will be prepared for it. His pacing has been proven too since he’s done the five round haul many times. I think overall, Whittaker is just too well-rounded to fall into Till’s traps for his big left hand and while I think Till will land some big shots, Whittaker will do enough for the decision win.
PICK – Robert Whittaker via Unanimous Decision

UFC Fight Island: Whittaker vs Till – Prelims Predictions

As the UFC brings to an end the first edition of Fight Island, the middleweight division is hotting up. Former champion Robert Whittaker makes his return in his first bout since losing the belt as he takes on former welterweight title contender Darren Till in the main event.

Before that though, a stacked FIFTEEN fight card will see plenty of big fights and talented fighters enter the octagon. I’ll break down the prelims here, and offer up my predictions for each fight.

Last time out for UFC Fight Island: Figueiredo vs Benavidez 2, I correctly predicted 6/10 winners on the night with just one of those completely correct (winner, round, method). I expect to do much better this time around and hope to improve on that record.

EARLY PRELIMS

Nathaniel Wood (16-4) vs John Castaneda (14-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

‘The Prospect’ came from Cage Warriors into the UFC and lived up to his name, with three successive submission wins before he finally fell to John Dodson in his last bout. He was originally scheduled to fight Umar Nurmagomedov, but he pulled out of the fight when his father died. Contender series fighter Castaneda didn’t earn a contract on the show despite his win but has stepped in at short notice for this bout. Wood is excellent in all realms of MMA when going forward but has a few holes defensively in the stand-up aspect, as exploited by Dodson. Castaneda is a steady striker with decent wrestling to fall back on, but realistically Wood is on another level at this point. Wood has enough power to put Castaneda down and I think he’ll use his ground game from there on to collect a submission win.
PICK – Nathaniel Wood via Submission, Round 2

Ramazan Emeev (18-4) vs Nicklas Stolze (12-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Another fight put together at short notice, German Stolze replaces Shavkat Rakhmonov who had to withdraw two weeks ago. A very capable striker, he doesn’t quite possess the elite level that Rakhmonov has and that should make it a bit easier for Emeev to deal with. The Russian is a complete wrestler with his only intention to get the fight down and keep you floored. He is relentless in his search for a takedown and once he gets you there it’s just a waiting game for him to wear you out. All of his UFC fights so far have gone the distance, with a 3-1 record and I think extends that record to get back in the win column.
PICK – Ramazan Emeev via Unanimous Decision

PRELIMS

Bethe Correia (11-4-1) vs Pannie Kianzad (13-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

After her huge upset win over Sijara Eubanks in October 2019, Bethe Correia snapped a three-fight losing streak in the UFC. She was in her prime way back in 2015 and it’s shown her recent performances. Kianzad was a TUF finalist, being beaten by Macy Chiasson before returning back home to Sweden for a win in the regional circuit. She came back to the UFC and has gone 1-1 and should be able to get a win here. She has a striking advantage over Correia, has a big height and reach advantage and then on top of that has a better output when it comes to volume. Neither fighter really has the power to end fights, as their combined 18 decision wins shows. So long as Kianzad doesn’t get sucked into a brawl with Correia, she should win this pretty comfortably in unspectacular fashion.
PICK – Pannie Kianzad via Unanimous Decision

Tanner Boser (18-6-1) vs Raphael Pessoa (10-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

Tanner Boser completes a one-month turnaround to compete on Fight Island against Raphael Pessoa. The movement heavy Boser is a good boxer and possesses a great leg-kick, something that will cause the flat-footed Pessoa trouble in this bout. The Brazilian won his last fight via decision against Jeff Hughes but it was a low quality bout. Boser is the better striker, better mover and has more power. He could potentially land a knockout win here, similar to the combination that put down Phillipe Lins down in his last fight.
PICK – Tanner Boser via Knockout, Round 1

Movsar Evloev (12-0) vs Mike Grundy (12-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A sleeper for fight of the night this one, two wrestlers who use their strikes knowing they can fall back on their grappling if necessary. Evloev is 2-0 in the UFC, beating Enrique Barzola in his last bout in a super impressive decision win. Both fighters are quite evenly matched and love a submission once they’re on the ground. Grundy will lead with power punches and level change but Evloev is arguably the slightly better wrestler between the two and should be able to deal with it. In a close fight, Evloev edges a decision win that plays out on the ground and with scrambles.
PICK – Movsar Evloev via Unanimous Decision

Tom Aspinall (7-2) vs Jake Collier (11-4) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

Tom Aspinall makes a return to the UFC after an attempt to start a boxing career against Collier, who is 2-2 in the UFC having previously won one and lost one in both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. Collier hasn’t fought since 2017 due to injuries and a USADA suspension and this is akin to stepping out of the frying pan and into the flame. Aspinall has genuine one-punch knockout power while he’s also an accomplished jiu-jitsu practitioner too. Mix that all in with Collier’s inactivity and natural size disadvantage, Aspinall should be able to get a win fairly quickly in this one.
PICK – Tom Aspinall via Knockout, Round 1

Nicolas Dalby (18-3-1) vs Jesse Ronson (21-10) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Another short notice fight as Jesse Ronson steps in for his first UFC fight in six years to take on Dalby at welterweight. Dalby has previously beaten Alex Oliveira and Elizeu Zaleski while also getting a draw against Darren Till in the 170lbs division. On the other hand, Ronson is naturally a lightweight and lost two of his last three in the PFL. Technically both fighters are pretty evenly matched but Dalby has the huge size advantage and should have enough about him, especially with Ronson coming in without a full camp, to take over as the fight progresses and earn a decision win.
PICK – Nicolas Dalby via Unanimous Decision

Francisco Trinaldo* (25-7) vs Jai Herbert (10-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
*Trinaldo missed weight, fight is now a catchweight fight at 160lbs

At 41 years old, we may have seen the signs that Trinaldo’s body is giving up on him. He missed weight for this one, coming in 4lbs over the 156lbs limit and Jai Herbert is a younger fighter in his prime years. The Brit is a superb jiu-jitsu practitioner who hasn’t really had to use his grappling too much in his career, with 8 of his 9 stoppage wins coming via knockout. He has got great power in his hands and while Trinaldo has always been very well rounded, his last loss was due to the forward pressure of Alex Hernandez. Herbert certainly has more chance as the fight continues on, but I’m going to back him for the upset in this fight with a submission win.
PICK – Jai Herbert via Submission, Round 3

Main card picks to follow, do you agree with my picks so far? Let me know.

UFC Fight Island Cards Announced – Early Predictions

UFC have revealed all the fights that will be happening on Fight Island next month.

Dana White appeared on Facebook Live with commentator Jon Anik and revealed the headline fights for each card, as well as the entire undercard for each event too.

Fight Island events will take place on July 11th, July 15th, July 18th and July 25th on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.

The organisation had already announced the entire July 11th card for UFC 251, where there will be 3 huge title fights on the main card.

They have now announced the on July 15th, Calvin Kattar will headline the card against Dan Ige in a Featherweight bout. Also on the card will be legendary Frankie Edgar’s Bantamweight debut as he takes on Pedro Munhoz, while Carla Esparza fights Marina Rodriguez. Abdul Razak Alhassan’s bout against Mounir Lazzez and Jared Gordon vs Chris Fishgold round off the main card.

3 days later, the Flyweight division will finally get a new Champion as Joseph Benavidez and Deivison Figuereido meet in a rematch. The two previously fought back in March in a fight for the title that Henry Cejudo had previously vacated, but Figuereido missed weight. That meant that he couldn’t win the belt and he proceeded to KO Benavidez in the second round to leave the division in limbo.

Also on the card, Jack Hermansson will fight former Middleweight contender Kelvin Gastelum while Marc Diakiese will take on Rafael Fiziev in the Lightweight division. Ariane Lipski fights Luana Carolina and Alexandre Pantoja will clash with Askar Askarov in the Flyweight divisions to round off this card.

The following weekend, in the final event on Fight Island, the UFC are pulling no punches.

At middleweight, former champion Robert Whittaker will finally meet Darren Till in a fight with huge title implications. Till beat Gastelum in his middleweight debut and if he can beat Whittaker will surely be next in line for a title shot once Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa have settled their beef. If Whittaker wins though, he could move into a position for a rematch against Adesanya.

Also on the card, two legends will have their trilogy fight. ‘Shogun’ Rua will take on ‘Little’ Antonio Nogueira at light heavyweight, with both fighters currently having a win over the other. Then at heavyweight, Alexander Gustafsson comes out of retirement and moves up in weight to take on the legendary Fabricio Werdum. It will be the Swede’s first fight since he retired in 2019 after a submission defeat to Anthony Smith. ‘Cowboy’ Alex Oliveira will fight against Peter Sobotta and Danny Roberts against Nicolas Dalby rounds off a stacked card.

You can see the full card for each event below thanks to @ESPNMMA’s graphics.

When Kattar takes on Ige, I see it almost as a sacrifice for Kattar to get him to fight. While Dan Ige is supremely talented and by no means a pushover, he’s just not on Kattar’s level and I think ‘The Boston Finisher’ will add to his record and get another KO win on the books.

For the Flyweight title, it’s hard to see anything but a repeat of what happened in March. While Benavidez is a legend in the sport and one of the greatest fighters to never hold a UFC title, Figuereido showed in their first fight that he was powerful enough to knock him out and take the shots of his opponent too. Not much will have changed in just 4 months and I think Figuereido will be aware that he has the power to do so, so may even go for it early. Unfortunately, I think this will be 0-4 for Benavidez in Flyweight title fights.

As Till and Whittaker do battle, many eyes will be locked in – not least champion Israel Adesanya. This could be a genuine contender for fight of the summer with both men taking a striking-first approach to fighting. Both guys have been very vocal on Twitter, although it’s been all in good jest, and neither will want to have to deal with the other man’s taunts following a loss. Till is an excellent counter-striker and his karate stance makes him hard to hit, but Whittaker has tremendous footwork and great kicks which could help him land better. I think this one goes the distance and I’m going to tip my favour towards the Brit.